Targeting of Muslims risks the exact terror threat we claim to oppose
The constant focus on the Muslim community risks prompting
exactly the kind of terrorist threat we are supposedly working to
The eighth generation Australian Muslim abused on the street and told to “go back where she came from”.
The Muslim men at a footy match marched out by police and questioned for using their phones “suspiciously”.
The senior Muslim cleric detained by Customs for no clear reason.
The bomb threat signed “Australian Defence League” sent to an Islamic centre.
Muslims raided and detained by NSW Police and then released without charge, henceforth stigmatised as “terror suspects”.
Muslims told to leave the country if they want to follow
sharia law by an opportunistic politician who doesn’t actually know what
sharia law is.
Muslim women told they don’t have the right to dress as they please by government backbenchers.
Muslims vilified as practising a religion of hatred and
murder by a far-right News Corp columnist. Muslims vilified as
practising “hatred, thuggery and racism” by a far-right Fairfax
the media have even argued that an individual victim’s beheading would
somehow be more psychologically damaging to Australia than mass-casualty
attacks — a homeopathic approach to terrorism in which ever-smaller
numbers of actual victims produces ever-greater damage and fear.”
The harassment and vilification of Muslims isn’t merely the
actions of a few neo-Nazi nutjobs or shrill talkback callers. It’s
coming from all over. The footy fan who thinks Lebanese men using phones
is automatically suspicious. The police who act on this “tip”. The
politicians who seize on terror raids to vent their weird obsessions
with Muslim women. The media figures who hope to harvest clicks by
Demonising Muslims not for anything they have done, but for who they are.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George
Brandis have rightly sought to take an inclusive approach toward the
Muslim community’s role in being able to stop extremism, and government
ministers repeatedly emphasised terrorism was unrelated to religion and
called for calm. But at other times Brandis has inflamed, not calmed
things, with his over-the-top rhetoric. To insist, as the
Attorney-General did yesterday, that the current terror threat was
greater than the risks of the Cold War is a new height in War on Terror
hysteria, from the man who gave us the “existential threat” of some
thugs whose idea of a terrorist strike is a random murder of an
individual. Even libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm, who has adopted
an appropriately sceptical view of Brandis’ proposed extensions of
anti-terrorism laws, has bought into the inflated rhetoric by accusing
the government of “appeasing” Muslims — presumably an odd form of
appeasement that consists of police raids.
Nor have the media helped. Even without extreme commentators
attacking Muslims, the breathless reporting of every detail, whether
fabricated, mistaken or correct, relating to possible terrorist
incidents only makes the atmosphere more febrile, especially with the
peculiar media obsession with beheading. Even if there’s no evidence for
such a clumsy form of terrorism, inside each Muslim terrorist there is
now, apparently, a beheader. Some in the media have even argued that an
individual victim’s beheading would somehow be more psychologically
damaging to Australia than mass-casualty attacks — a homeopathic
approach to terrorism in which ever-smaller numbers of actual victims
produces ever-greater damage and fear. And the media appears to have
only a binary understanding of terrorism: you’re either a sword-wielding
Muslim fundamentalist or you’re not, with no understanding of the
demonstrated recurring role of mental illness in Western terrorists, or
how expressing unpopular political views does not immediately mean one
is a “terror suspect”.
Put aside fairness and decency toward our Muslim citizens,
if nothing else, there’s a growing risk that the constant attention,
harassment and demonisation of a single community will alienate, isolate
and enrage people who may already be at risk of being turned to
extremism, the people already convinced Australia is targeting Muslims,
whether here or overseas. This is the very problem, supposedly, we’re
trying to address. The government appears at best torn on this — anxious
to call for calm and discourage the vilification of Muslims, but eager
to whip up fear in order to expedite the passage of its terror laws and
provide a justification for its involvement in Iraq. So many of us,
including in the media, seem hell-bent on creating the very conditions
that encourage extremism and alienation, right here in Australia.